Robust Decision Making: A Tool to Help Address Climate Change

Person walking through a maze-like landscape

Photo by Robin Jaffray / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Challenge

Climate change is a global problem that scientists and policymakers are working to better understand, and ultimately, devise solutions for. But how do experts address this expansive, ever-changing issue that is riddled with so many unknowns? Robust decisionmaking (RDM) is a highly useful tool.

Climate surprises shouldn't surprise. Climate policy should be robust over a wide range of futures.

Robert J. Lempert, Director, Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition

What is Robust Decision Making?

RDM—developed primarily by RAND researchers—helps identify decision making options under conditions of deep uncertainty. It is primarily used to help analysts identify more robust strategies for problem-solving, understand the vulnerabilities of those strategies, and evaluate the tradeoffs among them.

Often, these more robust strategies represent options that are designed to evolve over time in response to new information, which is especially relevant to an issue like climate change.

  • Forecasting
  • Decision Support
  • Mental Models
  • Behavioral Experiments

RDM in Action

Flooded I-10/I-610/West End Blvd interchange and surrounding area of northwest New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana

Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi/U.S. Coast Guard

For a far-reaching, complex problem like climate change—with so many unknowns and variables—applying RDM techniques can help decisionmakers make smarter projections about the future and explore long-term policy changes more deeply.

Over the last XX years, RAND researchers have been applying RDM to develop new models and techniques for analyzing the symptoms and impact of climate change; provide decision support for infrastructure building; develop approaches for water management and reliability; and help strengthen coastal planning.

"By determining how to use our limited dollars, river water, and sediment to gain the most value, we have identified investments that will pay off, not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren."

website of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan

Our Experts

The RAND Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty Co-directors

Learn More

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